Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Have a Darko Halloween!

I've never been a fan of scary movies, save for the "Scream" movies in the 1990s (which I can't watch anymore, due to an oddly enhanced spiritual sensitivity to gratuitious violence since the last one came out in 2000)...but I like to watch something along a Halloween theme on that special day.

For me, the film that best fills the role of "Halloween movie" is "Donnie Darko", which I never heard about until 2004 when the Director's Cut was released. By that point, it had already become a huge "cult film" after being a surprise hit in the United Kingdom. It bombed in U.S. theaters due to an unfortunate release date (October 2001). Had this film been released before 9/11, it might've done better in theaters, but I don't think the country was in the mood for a film that featured a plane crash in the months after the 9/11 tragedy.

When I first saw the film (the original version on dvd before going to see the Director's cut in theaters), I thought one had to be on drugs to understand it. The film was odd and didn't make a whole lot of sense. Yet, it was strangely compelling and watchable. In fact, in the years since, it has become one of the films I love to watch again and again. What really captivated me from the first viewing was the brilliant use of music, especially the scene that is choreographed to the Tears for Fears song "Head Over Heels". And the song "Mad World" is simply one of the most haunting melodies I've ever heard in a song. Beautiful, with a touch of melancholy that never leaves you. I love little details like the Halloween party scene when Donnie Darko comes down the stairs with his girlfriend in perfect synchronicity with the song "Under the Milky Way" playing (in the Director's Cut, he changed the song and it doesn't work nearly as well).

After I listened to the director's commentary track once I had watched it straight through, I was impressed that the director was actually younger than me. He's our generation! And to create such a high quality film with notable actors playing interesting characters. It's quite an achievement. I became a fan, though unfortunately the director Richard Kelly seems to be having major problems with his second film. His biggest problem is that he doesn't want to be thought of as "selling out" his artistic vision to Hollywood, so he wants the right to make weird films even if he can't find financial support for his future projects (his film "Southland Tales" is supposed to have a scene where a lightning bolt makes an SUV come to life and rape a car with its auto exhaust pipe--yeah, like I said: WEIRD!). That's a waste of talent. There's nothing wrong with making a popular, commercial film. Steven Spielberg and George Clooney are both known to have their policy of "one for the studio, one for me" (Clooney hasn't been ashamed to admit that the "Oceans 11" films are purely to get his more passionate works developed and made). What's wrong with that?

Anyhow, it's hard to grasp "Donnie Darko" in terms of linear plot and story. It deals with time travel and the sacrificing of one's life to save another. What I like about it are the acting and great music selections. One of my favourite scenes in the film is when Drew Barrymore is watching "Sparkle Motion" do their dance routine to Duran Duran's "Notorious" because she bobs her head to the beat of the song, while her eyes still maintain a cool, detached look. It is such a brilliant look, conveying both snobbish boredom and the body's betrayal of being unable to resist a good beat. It's little details like that which make this film one of my own "cult films" which I can watch repeatedly. So...that's what I'll be doing on Halloween night. No tricks...just a well deserved treat of watching this film once again.


Mandalynn said...

I haven't seen the film for years, but I do love the song, "Mad World." On Halloween I always like to break out "Shaun of the Dead." Very Funny.

Sansego said...

What about the "Scream" movies? You ever watch those again?